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CHAPTER ELEVEN: but it was not your fault but mine and it was your heart on the line I really fucked it up this time
Adrenaline overtook arousal as her intimate connection with Cara was broken. She rolled off the table, clutching what was left of her clothes around her. Kahlan grew up in rural Montana, she recognized the sound of high caliber rifle shots when she heard them. Cara hadn't been completely paranoid – someone was trying to kill her. Kahlan would feel guilty about her lack of trust later, however. Now she needed to find her way to the bedroom and her gun safe. She was not exactly a gun nut, but you couldn't grow up in Aydindril, a stalwart outpost of the Second Amendment, without owning at least one gun. Kahlan kept her mother's old .22 in the safe for hunting.
Sticking low to the ground and avoiding the windows, Kahlan crept through the house. Muscle memory led her safely around the furniture in the dark. The stairs creaked, but the sound was muffled compared to the sharp crack of bullets splintering the siding of her house. The continued hail of gunfire was actually comforting – their unseen attacker would not still be shooting if Cara were dead.
Her eyes had adjusted to the darkness by the time Kahlan made it to her room. The gun safe opened smoothly on well-oiled hinges. Kahlan grabbed the rifle and a box of bullets before sidling toward her window. It was her favorite view in the house, offering her the warm morning sun and a view of her well manicured lawn and the quiet main street of Aydindril with rolling hills behind. Now everything was eerily dark outside the window. The streetlights were still out. And where was Sheriff Brandstone? Their attacker was not being particularly quiet.
She settled her back against the wall and braced the rifle between her knees. It held ten shots in the magazine in the butt. Each bullet slid into place easily. Just like hunting quails, Kahlan assured herself, big blood-thirsty sniper quails. The rifle shots stopped and she could hear muffled yelling outside, though she couldn't make out the words. Betting that their attacker was now distracted, she took the opportunity to raise the window sash and set the barrel of her weapon on the sill.
Where were they being sniped from? Close enough they could be carrying on a shouted conversation with Cara. Snipers always worked from a high point, at least in movies. There were two houses nearby, one on each side of the street. If the sniper were operating from a house, they were either on the roof or in an upper story window.
She glanced down, her eyes caught by movement in the front yard. A flash of blonde was dashing out of the bushes and toward the house on the left. Desperate to provide cover fire, Kahlan aimed at one dark window and squeezed the trigger. The glass exploded. Trying to calm her shaking hands, she ejected the empty shell and aimed at the next window. Another pane of glass shattered. There was no return fire.
She prepared for her next shot, tracking Cara as she crossed the sidewalk and threw her shoulder into the house's door. Then she was gone. Kahlan didn't want to accidentally catch Cara with a bullet. She had done what she could.
Blowing out a long, uneven breath she turned and slid her back down the wall until she was sitting on the floor again.
When had her life become some sort of Sapphic Call of Duty? She hit the safety on her rifle with her thumb. The phantom of Cara's caresses was still on her heated skin. If anything, the danger and adrenaline had rekindled her arousal. She licked her lips, tasting Cara there. She was in a lot of trouble.
And then her bedroom door was kicked open and she was in even more trouble. Two women in blood red military uniforms, sporting night vision goggles and wielding wicked assault rifles, burst in. Before she could even lift her weapon, one of the soldiers was pressing a taser to her neck. Oblivion reached up and pulled her down into the darkness. Of course, wolves hunt in packs – the last thought that passed through her conscious mind.
Darkness surrounded her – a blackness so deep she despaired of ever clawing her way out. Panic seized her lungs. There wasn't enough air. The world was closing in. She was being smothered by the lack of light. She tried to kick, to thrash and break out of it only to find that she was bound. Immobile. Slowly, slowly, her heart calmed. It was a hood over her face; she could detect the rough texture and the weight of the material. She was being jostled around as if in a car on a back road. Time lost meaning with no external markers by which to judge its passage. She was transferred roughly from the vehicle into another seat. She felt the pressure of take off. She must be in an airplane.
It didn't take long, somewhere in the car, that she began to hallucinate. At first she had tried to keep her eyes closed behind the blindfold or mask, and concentrate on her breathing. She couldn't, however, there was too much turmoil inside of her. With her eyes open, the absolute darkness wreaked havoc on her brain. Visions of Cara, mouth and chin wet from Kahlan's arousal, gazing up the length of her nude body to make eye contact as she spiraled down from her climax tormented her. At first it was just Cara in her kitchen, kneeling in front of the table, like they had been right before they were rudely interrupted. But then it began to change – a new location with every permutation, as if Cara would be with her no matter where she was forever.
The pictures dancing before her blinded eyes were almost comforting, before they slowly were replaced by Richard. Richard looking disappointed. Richard shouting, maybe crying. Richard with an intense look of betrayal in his usually soft eyes. At least, the likelihood of her surviving this kidnapping seemed slight. She would never have to explain to Richard what she had done with his best friend. What she wanted to do again.
CHAPTER TWELVE: I want to reconcile the violence in your heart, I want to recognize your beauty is not just a mask
The interior of the house was eerily quiet. At first Cara wondered where the family that lived there had gone, but the sticky footprints that led up the stairs were a dead giveaway – literally. Cara expected nothing else from Denna. She adjusted her grip on the handle of the kitchen knife. Denna had undoubtedly tracked her movement into the house, even with Kahlan's surprising cover fire. The Mord-Sith would be prepared, or had already made good her escape.
She didn't bother to disguise the sound of her footsteps as she walked with a measured tread up the stairs. Let Denna hear how unafraid she was, how totally unaffected she had been by Denna's assault. Denna had made no effort to cover her trail either. The bloody footsteps lead down the upper hallway and into the master bedroom, though what lay inside Cara couldn't see since the door was firmly closed.
She paused, leaning her shoulder against the door frame and listening intently. No sound. She licked her lips, tightened her grip on the knife again and then spun, slamming the heel of her bare foot into the door just above the latch, sending it crashing off of its hinges. Splinters flew through the air as Cara dashed into the room, hoping to use the chaos as cover. There was a figure by the window, and Cara charged, knife slashing only to have her arm caught at the wrist. Denna snapped Cara's wrist neatly, followed by an elbow to the face that sent her opponent sprawling, blood streaming from her broken nose.
"Shit, Denna," Cara screamed in rage. She cradled her arm to her body, retreating to try to find a better footing and a new opportunity for attack. "Is that the way you greet all beautiful women?"
"Not so beautiful anymore," Denna snorted. She was edging around Cara, moving to subtly block her exit.
"Matter of opinion," Cara glanced back and forth between Denna and the knife where it had fallen on the floor. There was no sign of Denna's sniper rifle. She must have broken it down and stowed it while she waited for Cara to arrive. Denna was always efficient and prone to showing more affection to her weapons then she did to her lovers. Cara had some firsthand knowledge. "Frankly I think blood red is my color."
Denna reached behind her, smoothly unholstering her Agiel from its place nestled in the small of her back. She pointed the gun at Cara, aim unwavering. Cara visibly flinched. "Then maybe you shouldn't have pissed on your uniform and walked away from your country."
"Maybe," Cara shrugged her good shoulder, feigning nonchalance. There was no way out. She could only hope now that Denna was interested in her, and not in Kahlan. Her mind was a whirl and there was a grinding sense of anxiety growing deep in her belly. If only Denna would lower the gun she would be able to regain her equilibrium.
"Don't worry though, Cara, because I know just the thing we can do for you." The smile that Denna flashed her nearly froze the blood in her veins. Denna was quick, one of the fastest Cara had ever seen in hand to hand combat. She tried to block the blow, but her injured wrist made her defense ineffectual. Denna brought the butt of the gun down hard into Cara's face. Her world exploded into light and pain. Then it went dark.
But not for long.
Cara woke up as she was being dragged by her legs through the front yard of the house that she had just fought Denna in. Two soldiers in blood red uniforms and full black face masks were holding her ankles. Her hands had been handcuffed behind her back. The back of her t-shirt had torn open and she could feel cuts and contusions from the rough handling. She caught sight of a hooded figure similarly bound being drug out of Kahlan's house before she was tossed in the trunk of a black sedan.
They had Kahlan. And now she was really mad.
The trip in the trunk jostled her many wounds. Even for a woman that had been disemboweled at one point and generally enjoyed a good fight, the pain was becoming excruciating. Relief washed over her when the car ground to a stop and the trunk was popped open. Denna's smiling face blocked Cara's view of the starry night sky. "We've arrived, Cara. I hope you like it here."
Roughly she lifted Cara out of the trunk and dropped her sprawling on the gravel. The car was parked on an empty stretch of gravel road, surrounded on all sides by trees. The smell of pine permeated the air. Before Cara could orient herself, Denna yanked her to her feet and forced her off the road and down into the trees. Not for away, there was a small clearing. Sticking out of the ground in the very center was a shovel.
"What the hell is your game?" Cara snarled, her voice slightly muffled by her broken nose.
"No game." Denna unlocked Cara's handcuffs, letting the metal manacles fall to the ground and then placed the barrel of her Agiel against the base of Cara's skull. "Just dig your own grave."
"This is going to be a bit slow." Cara was frustrated how her voice cracked at the feeling of the weapon digging into her neck. She took measured steps from the edge of the clearing to the shovel and picked it up. She had to rely on her left hand more; her right one throbbed with the pain from her wrist which had begun to swell alarmingly.
"I've got all night. And do a nice job. I'd hate to think you'd have a sloppy resting place. You were always so precise," Denna nearly whispered the words directly into Cara's ear. Cara wished that she could punch the other woman, but the time was not right for retaliation. If she pretended to comply with Denna, at least for now, she could hope to come up with a reasonable escape plan. She had no intention of dying in the woods in a god-forsaken place like Montana. And she had no intention of being killed by fucking Denna. Never let yourself get executed by an ex, that was one of Cara's mottos.
Digging hurt - a lot - But Cara never did anything half-assed, even digging her own grave. She worked for about an hour, digging several feet down to create a rectangular hole about six feet by three feet. Denna watched from several feet away, gun trained on Cara the entire time. She set her foot to the top of the shovel, preparing to cut down for another scoop of dirt when she heard the first noise. A rustling disturbed the underbrush in front of her. She swore she could see a shadow move.
She didn't want to alert Denna, perhaps whatever was out there would provide the distraction she needed to finally finish the other woman off. Then she could climb in her car, and find wherever they took Kahlan, brutally murder her kidnappers and convince the brunette to forget that she had ever heard about anyone named Richard. She tossed the shovel-full of dirt onto the growing pile and bent back to her task.
Another twenty minutes went by, or so Cara calculated, without any more strange noises. She was about to chalk it up to a random animal when it happened again – a rustling and the faint movement of shadows, this time off a little to her right. Now she was certain, with the bone-deep knowledge of a natural warrior – Denna was being flanked from the trees.
Two more loads of dirt hit the pile before the first shot. Whoever was in the trees was using a silencer. Just the thrum of moving air warned of the lethal projectile's approach. Denna was more alert than Cara had credited her for. She hit the ground, causing the bullet to miss its mark in the center of her forehead. Instead it grazed across her cheek, creating a blossom of angry red.
Cara seized her chance, spinning on her heels and swinging downward with the shovel at Denna's prone form. The Mord-Sith rolled out of the way and Cara's weapon thumped into the ground. Camouflaged figures burst from the treeline in every direction, closing in on the two women. Cara couldn't care less, she was intent on some well deserved revenge. She brought her heel down sharply into Denna's sternum before kicking her sharply in the side of the head. By the time the soldiers made it to her, Denna was out cold.
They were American soldiers, that much was immediately obvious from the equipment and cut of their uniforms, though they lacked insignia. The squad formed a loose circle around Cara and her fallen adversary. Presumably their leader, stepped forward, reaching up to peel his night vision goggles off and reveal his face.
"A pleasure to see you again, Miss Mason. You've looked better." Richard Rahl tucked the goggles under one arm and put his other hand out to squeeze Cara's shoulder. He was wearing one of his trademark ridiculously goofy grins – a little boy playing soldier, was what Cara had always pictured looking at him. Except he had a terrifying capacity for anger.
She reached up, running the back of her hand across her face, smearing the blood from her shattered nose. "Well, you're late Cypher, or I'd be looking a hell of a lot prettier."
"There was a kitten stuck in a tree. That's why we got delayed."
"I sure fucking hope you're joking," Cara snarled.
Richard just responded with his smile and turned back to his men. He quietly issued orders and the soldiers began to clean up. Two bound Denna while a third checked her vital signs. Certain that Denna wouldn't die before she could be interrogated, the medic turned his attention to Cara. He shot her full of some kind of pain killer and splinted her wrist. She took it all quietly, watching Richard with hooded eyes as he talked on the radio. The medic circled her and gingerly pulled her shirt fragments out of the wounds on her back. On cue, Cara registered his sudden stillness followed by the quiet gasp he couldn't quiet swallow. Most people reacted to the scarring along her back like that. Extensive cosmetic surgery had been performed to make her abdomen look smooth again after her unfortunate brush with death, but the lash marks that criss-crossed her back where a constant reminder of her oath of service. American soldiers weren't trained the same way; she didn't expect the medic to understand.
She didn't say anything to assuage his discomfort and instead allowed him to work in awkward silence. Perversely, it made her feel better.
As the adrenaline drained away, the full magnitude of the situation encompassed Cara. She was in love with her best friend's wife who had just been kidnapped in the middle of lust-fueled sexcapades on her kitchen table only to be rescued from certain death by said best friend. Her mind circled Kahlan, and a feeling akin to sickness and panic welled up in her chest. If Denna had ordered Kahlan to be hurt – she would personally kill the woman.
Richard finally turned back to Cara from his radio, face grim, as the medic finished up. "Did you get Kahlan?" The words exploded out of Cara. She hadn't meant to ask so directly or sound so desperate.
"We missed them. The Air Force is tracking the flight right now, but they won't be able to intercept it."
"They're taking her out of the country?" Cara's heart dropped into her stomach. She knew just where Kahlan was going, and just what waited for her there.
The woman she loved was going to pay for her sins.
CHAPTER THIRTEEN: Forget about our mothers and our friends, We're fated to pretend
"I'm not entirely sure you understand the gravity of your situation, so I'll try explaining it to you again. This time slower. I'm worried that maybe you don't understand English." The dark haloed face swam in and out of Kahlan's vision. The length of her trip and the full-body beating that occurred as soon as she arrived at what she assumed was her final destination, made it tough to really focus. She was tied to a chair in the middle of a dark concrete room. Only a bare bulb hanging from the middle of the ceiling illuminated the space. Really, it was all too cliché for Kahlan's taste – as if she were watching a bad movie. Even the accents were a little ridiculous. The woman interrogating her had the same foreign lilt to her voice as Cara did, but her English was not as crisp.
Her dark hair was pulled back into a long braid that she twisted in her hands every time she appeared to become frustrated with Kahlan's lack of responsiveness – which was often. She was also wearing a uniform that Kahlan recognized as similar to the one that Cara had been wearing in her photo with Richard. The tailoring and insignia reminded her a little of a Nazi stormtrooper.
"You are going to do what I say. And tell me what I want to hear." The woman paused menacingly as she leaned over Kahlan. "Or I am going to make you beg for a death that I will never grant. I will pluck out each eyeball. Cut off each finger, each toe. Then I will begin skinning you, starting with your pretty long legs."
Kahlan blanched and tried to avoid developing a mental picture to match the words. She licked her cracked lips. Forming words hurt, mentally and physically, but maybe the woman would believe her this time.
"I don't know anything. I don't know about Cypher or Operation Seeker. Cara didn't tell me anything. I thought she was just a friend of my husband's, and I thought my husband was just a regular soldier. You people are the first I've heard differently."
Wrong answer. The dark haired woman's fist connected with the side of Kahlans's face before she could recognize that it was moving. The blow knocked her sideways and bound she had no way of catching herself. Instinctively she tucked her chin which probably saved herself from a nasty headwound as the chair tipped over onto the floor.
"I am going to start really hurting you!" Boots clicked against the pavement as her tormentor circled around toward her back. Her muscles tightened up, anticipating more pain.
Outside of her range of vision, the door opened. She could hear a new set of footsteps and the door closed brusquely. "That won't be necessary, Trianna. I think I can handle things from here." The newcomer sounded jarringly American.
Kahlan and her chair were righted. There was a blonde, hair scrapped back into a tight bun, wearing a sharply tailored black suit standing next to the soldier now. Trianna hesitated and opened her mouth like she was about to argue.
"Yes, yes, Trianna. I'm aware. You're still terribly hurt about Cara's betrayal. Oh, boohoo for you." The blonde pointed at the door. "I don't care about your feelings. You should be ashamed that you are letting them show. You will not compromise my operation just to make a punching bag out of your old flame's new fuck." Angry red rose in Trianna's cheeks at the words but before she could try to protest again, the blonde roared: "GET OUT!"
Irrational relief flooded Kahlan with Trianna's exit, and in one of those cognitive quirks that marks human psychology, the blonde came to embody that relief in that moment.
"Really, I don't know anything," Kahlan offered, trying to sound helpful and sincere.
"Trianna is a petty little fool," the blonde wave her hand dismissively as she knelt, so that her face was level with Kahlan's. "She wants to hit you. Because Cara used to fuck her, and then she threw her away like trash."
The language and the rather unflattering portrayal of her recent lover's behavior made Kahlan visibly flinch. All she had ever known Cara as was as a strong, silent but strangely comforting presence in her life – and as a passionate lover. Certainly, she had realized that Cara was running from the bad things she had done, but everyone could change.
"But, you see, it isn't about what you know. You're a country bumpkin, I understand that. You have a pretty face so people with important secrets like to kiss it. As a source of information, though, you're really not useful." If Kahlan weren't tied up, she would have hit the other woman for that remark. Instead she had to resort to making a rather angry face. "No, you're important because important people want you. They want you desperately. And they'll do stupid things to get you back."
The blonde abruptly stood. Their conversation must be at an end. "I'll have Raina move you to a cell so you can sleep for now. It will take at least two days for Cypher and Cara to arrive. I promise, we'll keep you in style."
"As long as your style is silent. I'm fucking tired of listening to you people jabber," Kahlan finally snapped. She really missed how quiet Cara could be. Her only response was the blonde's crisp laughter over her shoulder as she exited. If these people were going to be her company for the next couple of days, she would have to find a way to escape before Cara and Richard could rescue her.
CHAPTER FOURTEEN: Sick for days, so many ways, I'm aching now, I'm aching now
"Richard, I had sex with your wife."
"Since we're going to be risking our lives together again, and since you saved me that one time, I think you deserve to know that I made love to your wife, Richard."
"Dick, I had your wife on your kitchen table."
"I fucked Kahlan, Richard. And I'd really like to do it again. I'm not really into guys, but if I'd make you feel better, I'd let you watch."
Cara scrubbed her hands across her face. Tension was building up in the muscles of her neck and across her shoulders, knots of pain that she couldn't shake out. Emotions were tricky things. For someone like Cara, who spent a lot of time avoiding hers, reading the subtle clues about other people's emotional states was nearly impossible. Frequently she was forced to rush in, and clean up the damage afterward. Tact was for people that didn't have reoccurring nightmares about seeing their own intestines.
"And I think she liked it. I mean, I didn't take her by force or anything. But, I'm awfully sorry." How did you sound sorry when you weren't really? Oh, she was sorry that Richard's wife was so damn irresistible, but she wasn't sorry that she had failed to resist. No matter how much it hurt Richard, Cara couldn't regret any of the time she had spent with Kahlan. She couldn't regret knowing what Kahlan's sweat tasted like, or the way her arousal smelled, or the way her pupils dilated and turned her eyes dark as she climaxed.
"Maybe you should find yourself another wife, and I'll keep this one."
She shook her head. None of it would do. There just weren't the right words to tell him. Everything sounded horrible, shockingly painfully horrible. Wasn't there a way to be casual when discussing adultery? She shook her head at her reflection in her sunglasses which she held in her lap to allow herself to practice a contrite expression, and then slipped them back on to shield her eyes. The cargo bay of the jet was huge and full of the sound of engines. Richard was up front with the pilot as they made their final approach into Hartland Forward Operating Base.
The entire plane ride she had sat, her back against one giant crate of munitions, and tried to figure out what exactly was going on. Oh, she definitely knew that the Mord-Sith had come to take their due, and decided to kidnap Kahlan along with it – but rather what was going on inside of her. Kahlan was a fantastic lay, and you could just tell from looking at her that she could get even freakier, but through their short, largely quiet cohabitation, she had come to mean something to Cara.
And that meant there would have to be a reckoning.
If any of them came out of this alive.
"Fuck," Cara braced her arm against the crate beside her to keep from bouncing her skull against it as they taxied into Hartland. Before she could recover her rattled brain, Richard was standing over her, offering his hand to help her up. She took it, grunting something that might have been thanks. He slapped her soundly on the back.
"You're looking a little pale, Cara, the ride not agree with you?" He was so damn friendly, and his smile was killing her.
She bit her lower lip to keep one of her rehearsed phrases from busting loose. Overall, it created a rather constipated look that Richard chose to interpret as illness from the flight. "I'll find you some Pepto soon as we get out of this junker."
The searing noon-day sun hit Cara full in her face. After the weather in Montana, she wasn't really prepared for the blast of dry heat. Kahlan had gotten so far under her skin that her homeland felt foreign. She was in more trouble than she had realized.
They jogged off the shimmering blacktop and ducked into a low slung building. Rattling over-worked air conditioners heated the small, gray interior. Cara recognized the prefabricated design as the one's that the American military used all over the desert. The middle of the room to which Richard led her was dominated by a long conference table, with a single man at the head – the head of Operation Seeker. Cara didn't care much for the aging Colonel whom she considered more of a political animal than a soldier. Not that she hadn't done her fair share of maneuvering, in and out of bed, to arrive at the exalted heights from which she fell – still she remembered what her primary focus in life was – being a warrior.
"Mason," the Colonel stood up and offered her a thin hand which she shook firmly. "Nice to see you again."
She nodded in reply.
Richard and the Colonel were positively verbose as they went over the endless maps and aerial photographs of Codename Temple where Cara was certain they had taken Kahlan. She zoned out. Their plan didn't mean anything to her. She was going to do this her way, which is how she should have handled it in the first place. There wasn't a corner, secret entrance or hole in that fortress that she didn't personally know. The boys were planning to blow shit up, rush in wearing camo with a special ops force. Kahlan would be dead before they breached an exterior wall.
After three or four hours of that absolute crap, Cara yawned exaggeratedly drawing their attention back to her. "Just leave it to me. You guys keep your Green Berets." She stood up. "Now, where's the bed in this place. I need a nap before I go rescue your wife."
Cara adjusted the Agiel at her hip and focused on her breathing. There were far too many guns strapped to her. She had to hold Kahlan's face in her mind's eye to stave off a panic attack as she checked the clip on her rifle and slung it over her shoulder. She filed that fact away for later when she could mull it over more fully. Now it was time to get shit done.
"Locked and loaded?" Cara could never understand why Richard felt the urge to ramble at times like this. "She's going to be alright, right? Sure she will. Maybe I should take her on vacation after this – somewhere warm so she'll have an excuse to wear a bikini." The last thing Cara needed right then was to think about Kahlan in a swimsuit frolicking with Richard on a Caribbean beach.
He continued to chatter. Cara tuned him out. She wished desperately that the Jeep had a radio to drown him out with. On and on he went about Kahlan's many virtues. They were still ten miles out when Cara hit the brakes throwing Richard into the dash. "Shut up. I don't want to hear about your matrimonial angel. If you keep talking, I'm going to drive right into the front of Temple and beg them to shoot me in the head."
Richard gave her a strange look, Cara figured it must mean that she hurt his feelings, but she wasn't going to apologize. They rode in silence, punctuated by the growling of the tires as they spun through the soft sandy spots.
She parked the Jeep in the ravine that Richard had picked from his topographic maps. They covered the vehicle with a desert camo tarp and backtracked along their wheel ruts, brushing them smooth for about a quarter of a mile.
Richard finally broke the silence as they lay at the crest of a dune, studying their approach through field glasses. "Is something wrong?" He asked, glancing over at Cara to gauge her reaction to the question before turning back to his glasses.
"No, nothing. Obviously." Cara could sneer with her voice better than anyone else. She had practically invented it. "I didn't just spend a month in the middle of goddamn nowhere playing house with your mouthy fucking wife only to get attacked by Denna of all worthless excuses for a Mord-Sith and now you've drug me into the damn sand again. And I promised myself I'd never come back here. So, I'm peachy. Actually, I almost feel like breaking into a song and dance number I'm feeling so fine."
That had to be the most she had ever said to Richard at one time. He looked pleased.
"Cara, you know I love you for taking care of her for me, and coming to help me." He reached over to punch her lightly in the shoulder. "You're my best friend."
Too much emotion. Cara was not programmed or equipped to handle it. Guilt filled her mouth with a sour taste of bile.
CHAPTER FIFTEEN: Rip the earth in two with your mind, Seal the urge which ensues with brass wires
Kahlan lay stretched out on the narrow bunk bolted to the wall, the only piece of furniture in the small concrete cell, and attuned her senses to her barren surroundings. She grew up in Montana, spent her entire life in a community where hunting was the number one pastime – she knew how to stalk her prey. To keep track of the passage of time, and learn to anticipate Trianna's arrival with her meals, she had begun counting her heartbeats. Another four hundred beats or so until dinner.
The long empty time with nothing to and no one to talk to had forced her once again to confront the reality of her situation. Not once did she consider that she was actually going to rot there, she had far too much confidence in Richard and Cara both for that. Seeing the two of them together though, that was what frightened her. When Kahlan was carried off, she knew the first thing that Cara would do was call Richard. How was she supposed to handle her lover and her husband at the same time? She owed Richard so much, for caring for her, and she made promises to him – the biggest when she married him: love, honor and obey. Sure, no one really took the obey part serious, but love and honor no one could argue with that.
Had Cara mentioned it to Richard? Had Richard noticed something different about Cara? Could he smell Kahlan on her?
Her hands tightened around the strips of sheet she had braided together and twisted tight to make a homemade garrote that she was concealing beneath her head. She looked for all the world as if she was lounging, relaxed, with her hands folded behind her head. Oh, Trianna was going to b e in for the surprise of her life.
Just on time, Kahlan heard the scrape of boots, the clicking of the lock and then the door was opening to admit Trianna. "Come and get your slop, whore," she growled, holding out a paper plate oozing with the goop they had been feeding Kahlan for every meal.
Kahlan didn't move to take it, or even get up. Trianna took a step closer. "Eat your damn food, or I'll knock all the teeth out of your head."Another step brought her into Kahlan's range – thank God for long arms. Trianna had dangerously underestimated Kahlan.
She kicked up, knocking the slop directly into Trianna's face and then lunged, uncoiling from the bed like a snake. Trianna rallied valiantly, swiping at her eyes with one hand and lashing out with the other fist, but Kahlan was behind her, twisting her garrote around the other brunette's neck and forcing her to her knees before she could mount a proper defense. Gurgling noises escaped from Trianna's lips as she struggled to slip her fingers under the sheet and relieve the pressure to no avail. Kahlan shook her once or twice. She hadn't realized how long it took to strangle someone – her arms were beginning to feel weak and she worried she might vomit.
Trianna's struggling faded and she slumped to the side. Kahlan held it for a moment longer and then let the ends of the garrote drop. She breathed in and out quickly, her heart hammering against her ribs. She hoped Trianna was still alive, there was just nothing in her nature that would make her happy to kill, but she was vindictive enough to hope the oxygen deprivation eliminated a few of Trianna's already limited brain cells.
The door was unlocked now, but running through the compound in her dirty, torn up clothes without a weapon was not a reasonable escape plan. She kicked the door closed, after retrieving the keys from the lock. Trianna was heavy and unwieldy, but luckily they were a similar size. In Trianna's uniform with similar dark hair, she hoped that she could pass if she escaped close scrutiny.
She rolled Trianna, now naked, up under the bunk and covered her with what was left of her shredded sheet. The uniform itched; it was tight in places and the weight of the pistol on her hip felt strange. How had Cara done this every day?
The hallway was clear as she slipped out into it and locked the door behind her. She had no idea where she was, how large the building that imprisoned her was, or which way was out but at least she had taken matters into her own hands and she was on her way to freeing herself.
Richard was going to be surprised when he came to save her.
CHAPTER SIXTEEN: I have no space, no room to move around, And this box is getting smaller, I'm trying to get out
"Are you sure you know what you're doing?"
Cara ignored Richard's question as she lifted the grating out. It had been a long time since water flowed this way, but the Mord-Sith were not exactly engineers. Temple's foundations were exactly the same as the day they were laid hundreds of years before as a medieval fortress in the time of the Emperor. Cara planned ahead, always, and during her early years as a young officer she had made a point of researching the original blueprints of the building. The lower levels were largely out of use; the military had decided that wiring and plumbing them to make them sufficiently useful was not cost effective. The upper levels had been changed, remodeled and retrofitted over and over during the long history f use, and today was the central command post for the Mord-Sith division.
Centuries before, a stream had run under the Temple, which had been part of the original strategic reason for its placement. Long ago, the stream had been diverted for farming and the like and now only a dry channel ran under the Temple but the tunnel through which it had passed was never closed up. Why bother? No one was stupid enough to want to get into a building full of Mord-Sith. Hubris was perhaps the most glaring of the Mord-Siths' sins.
Richard followed her in, and waited crouched and fiddling with his flashlight while she leaned the grate back against the opening. If someone inspected it, there would be no question it was tampered with, but it was unlikely that anyone would come by.
They traveled through the dark tunnel silently, stepping over dead rats and following the wavering beam of light that Richard held. Eventually the tunnel reached a T-junction. Both directions looked the same as the way they had come, and Richard was just opening his mouth to ask the obvious question when Cara pointed at the wall directly in front of them. Carved into the old stone were hand and footholds – a crude ladder.
"Up," she explained simply.
"Wait," Richard held up his hand. In the shadows, Cara could just make out his expression and what she saw made her want to hit him in the face. It was his mooncalf look. "Cara, what if…" His voice got low and rough as it trailed off. Shit, was he going to cry? The United States Army did not do sufficient psychological testing in Cara's opinion.
"What if what?" Cara sounded harsher than she meant.
"You know," he almost whispered.
"What if Kahlan has grown a tail?" Cara turned away from him, setting her fingers in the first indentations. The climate was dry, so she didn't have to deal with slime like she might have in other conditions. She hoisted herself up high enough to reach for the next one. "Or, what if I kick you in the head for being such a self-involved ass? If you don't hurry up, Kahlan will have died of old age before you can sweep in and make your heroic entrance."
That quieted him. She could hear his boots scrape as he climbed behind her. The hatch leading from the drainage tunnel into the lower level was further up than Cara had anticipated. The strap of her rifle pulled unpleasantly at her shoulder as she lifted her arm and flexed her shoulders. In the back of her mind she dreaded the moment they reached Kahlan. Her mind's eye constructed a truly disgusting image of Richard rushing into the room, after she had done all the work to get them too their target, sweeping Kahlan off her feet in a ridiculously romantic gesture that was sure to put all thoughts of Cara and the time they had spent together right out of her mind.
"You know, Cypher, if you wanted to wait here, I could extract the target. That way if something happens, we don't both hang." It was worth a shot.
"I have your back, Cara. Always. I wouldn't let you take my bullet to save my wife." He sounded so damn sincere that Cara contemplated letting her foot slip loose from the hold and take out his nose with her heel. Her temper was growing fouler by the moment.
"You're such a damn hero." She growled over her shoulder at him.
"So are you," he answered cheerfully.
She was thankful that they reached the top. One more moment and she wouldn't have been able to control her foot. She shouldered the hatch open, sliding it carefully along the ground, and climbed up and out into a disused hallway. She slid her rifle down her arm and into her hand, prepared for the worst, as she bent down to help hoist Richard up the last few steps.
The difference that came over Richard in moments like this shocked Cara. For the most part, Richard acted like a large, shaggy mutt. You could kick it, or give it a treat, either way it would stare at you with big eyes and lick your hand. Except when, whether by training a quirk of temperament, he became an unstoppable soldier.
He slung his weapon down, grasping it tightly and dropped into a half crouch. Cara led the way, following from memory the long ago paths she had traced on the blueprints. They had reached the base of the stairway that would lead them onto the main level when a rush of boots and shouted orders drew them both up short. They crouched, weapons readied, against the corner. The sounds were drawing nearer. And then suddenly whatever the racket was burst onto the stairs they were preparing to ascend.
Cara peered carefully around the corner. One Mord-Sith in full uniform was barreling down the stairway, long hair loose behind her, chased by a quad who all seemed to be shouting at the top of their lungs. The escaping Mord-Sith swung around the corner and straight into Cara as she was pulling back. The two tumbled to the floor as Richard sprang into action, vaulting over the pile of humanity and aiming a spray of bullets into the stairwell that sent the pursuers hastily retreating.
Cara shouted, struggling with the woman on top of her. Punches, elbows, teeth and hair pulling resulted as they rolled on the floor, fighting for dominance. Richard held off a further advance by strafing the stairs every time he caught the slightest movement. It took only a few moment for Cara to finally gain the upper hand, pining her opponents arms with her knees and pushing her thumbs into her throat. Cara laughed triumphantly, gazing down at her vanquished opponent with hard eyes.
"KAHLAN?" she screamed the name, transfixed by the vision of her lover beneath her. Instantly her hands flew away from her neck. The brunette lay beneath her, no longer struggling as recognition dawned on her face.
"We were just coming to rescue you, sweetheart," Richard shouted over his shoulder before releasing another hail of gunfire.
"I rescued myself," Kahlan laughed softly. Her eyes were bright and her cheeks flushed. She had been running for sometime apparently, but the feel of her beneath Cara was seductive. The heat radiated up from her body and through Cara's pants directly to her groin. Mentally she smacked herself. Getting aroused during a firefight was just typical.
Cara hesitated longer than strictly necessary before rolling off Kahlan and helping her to her feet. "Back through the tunnel, quickly." She didn't wait to see if Richard followed her, trusting him to protect their back as she grabbed Kahlan's arm and drug her back down the twisting hallways.
Bullets ricocheted off the walls around them as the quad finally pulled itself together and gave chase, Agiels out. Nausea rose in Cara's stomach as the rush and whine of the projectiles' passage surrounded her. Her vision grew blurry at the edges as her heart rate accelerated out of control.
Now was not the time to lose her shit. She knew it. How badly would she be embarrassed if she launched into a full scale panic attack in the middle of rescuing her lady love? Pretty fucking badly, and then she would have to kill all the witnesses to protect her reputation and she was almost certain she would never meet another woman with an ass like Kahlan's – it would be a shame to have to kill her for reputation's sake.
When they made it to the hatch, Cara dropped in first, landed on bent legs to absorb the bone-rattling shock. Her ankles burned in protest, but there wasn't enough time to climb down.
"Jump, I'll catch you!" Cara called up to Kahlan whose face was just visible peering down at her. The sharp report of Richard's weapon was a constant reminder of their heavily armed adversaries.
"Don't drop me," Kahlan shouted back.
"I promise." She did her best to project strength and sincerity.
Apparently it worked because Kahlan's face disappeared for a moment, and then she was falling through the air. Her weight landed awkwardly across Cara's arms, driving her to one knee as she struggled to stay upright. Kahlan instinctively wrapped her arms around Cara's shoulders. Their faces were inches apart. The blonde could feel Kahlan's breath against her lips. For a moment they were in their own world and it took every ounce of willpower Cara possessed not to lean the short distance to capture Kahlan's lips with her own.
"That uniform looks terrible on you." She sounded breathy, and the words came out almost a purr. She just couldn't seem to control herself.
"Thanks," Kahlan replied with an unrestrained smile, a blush rising on her cheeks.
"Really terrible. You'd be better off running around naked."
Richard thumped heavily to the floor behind them. No one had moved to catch him. Cara didn't feel bad at all. His unceremonious landing did, however, break the mood. Kahlan scrambled out of Cara's arms to her feet. Cara's knees protested the battering they had taken, but she pushed herself upright, grabbed Kahlan and headed down the tunnel. The passage was faster the second time and they reached the grate just as their adversaries descended into the depths.
They burst out of the tunnel into the blinding wasteland of searing sun and sand, just as a round of gunfire was unleashed behind them. A bullet brushed Cara's ear, drawing blood along the earlobe and sending her spinning into Kahlan. The two nearly fell but for Kahlan's own dexterity in keeping them upright. Richard turned and planted his feet to return fire.
One of the quad dropped, blood blossoming from her stomach – the crimson nearly invisible against her uniform. Cara recovered her footing and pushed Kahlan away from her. "Run!" She ordered before reaching back to grab Richard's shirt and fling him after the brunette.
There were some things about her plans she had seen fit to keep from Richard, with what she considered good reason. One of those things was the remote-detonation anti-personnel mines she had sunk into the ground along the path between the Temple and their Jeep while he was taking a ridiculously long time on the radio and the Colonel.
Certain that Richard and Kahlan were clear, she fingered the device in her pocket and set off the first wave of explosions. One of the quad was immediately flattened by the rush of fire that plumed in front of her. The other two were blown away, landing on their backs.
Cara laughed softly to herself as she turned, jogging after her friends. They reached the Jeep, Cara slid into the driver's seat while Richard solicitously helped Kahlan into the back.
"Come on, come on," the blonde shouted, rushing Richard who was taking too fucking long playing Romeo with his newly recovered wife.
The tires threw up sand as the Jeep tore away, leaving the Temple and only one of Cara's many nightmares behind. She could tell from Richard's dewy eyes, that another nightmare was only just beginning.
CHAPTER SEVENTEEN: We're bound to wait all night, She's bound to run amok, Invested enough in it any how, To each his own, The garden needs sorting out
Richard pressed against her side, stroking her thigh, running his fingers through her hair, resting his arms around her shoulder. It felt as if he was touching her all the time, afraid she might have ceased to be corporeal at some point. She felt relieved that Cara was not sitting in first class with them to watch as he leaned in to nuzzle her neck. Every so often he murmured her name, just her name and nothing more. She smiled, a little strained, when the stewardess complimented them on being such a handsome couple. The flight felt interminable.
She had been rushed, following their return to Hartland, into some sort of debriefing procedure. She could tell them nothing except that Mord-Sith were terrible cooks, had uncomfortable uniforms and really liked to hit people. She assumed that none of that was news. Her head had only just stopped spinning when Richard pushed her into a shiny black Humvee and whisked her to a waiting Army jet, where they flew, accompanied by a silent and stony-faced Cara to Rammstein in Germany where they caught a commercial flight back to the States. Where she was sitting. Trying to keep herself from slapping Richard's hands. Trying to keep from asking to see Cara.
She appreciated Richard's presence and his love. Following her kidnapping and abuse, it almost felt smothering, though. She need time and space to recover herself.
She couldn't contain her sigh of relief when they touched down in Helena. Richard solicitously carried her single small carry-on bag with the spare set of clothes they had picked up for her in Germany. Cara had followed them around the shopping district, looking jumping and glaring at everyone that got too close, but Kahlan couldn't honestly remember the last word that she had heard Cara say. The blonde had been struck mute.
Cara didn't accompany them to Aydindril. She got a rundown motel room on the outskirts of Helena and wrote the phone number for the place on the back of a receipt for Richard. He carefully slipped it into his wallet. If the two spoke, they didn't do it in front of Kahlan, who stood in the doorway of the fleapit feeling lost. And then Richard was leading her back to the rental car, whistling to himself. They barely spoke at all during the drive to Aydindril. He commented on the weather and made small talk about old movies. She held his hand. She told herself over and over that she loved him.
He helped her clean up the house, spending a whole afternoon patching the bullet holes in the siding while Kahlan swept out and aired the interior. Her hands shook when she wiped down the kitchen table. She didn't know where Cara was or what she was doing. It ate at the back of her mind. How long was Cara staying in Helena? Had she already headed somewhere else? Would she ever see her again?
When she tried asking Richard he just smiled and told her not to worry about Cara, the woman was good at taking care of herself. Kahlan certainly didn't think so.
They made love the first night. It wasn't unpleasant, and Kahlan felt safe held tight to Richard's broad masculine chest. She didn't feel as wildly out of control as she had beneath Cara's ministrations. Was she relieved? She didn't know.
The second day was the same as the first, except Kahlan went into the office. The FBI was swarming around City Hall. The Federal government had no interest in a case of terrorism so deep in the American interior gaining media attention. Kahlan could barely summon up the energy to smile at the insipid man in the black suit who talked at her over and over about how she could be prosecuted if she gave interviews.
Her chest felt empty and it ached when she was concentrating on nothing at all. Absently she took to rubbing her fist against her breastbone, trying to relieve the discomfort.
"I have a surprise for you, sweetheart," Richard nearly bounced out of his chair like a small child with excitement when he announced that at dinner that night.
Dinner was extremely uncomfortable for Kahlan. She could not look directly at the surface of the table, which meant she had to make eyecontact with Richard. His sweet cluelessness was the only thing saving her. A more suspicious man would surely have noticed her faint blush. She dropped her spoon into her soup and folded her hands neatly in her lap, preparing for the surprise. Hopefully, it didn't involve munitions or sudden movements.
"I'm going to take you on vacation. Really, like a honeymoon." He leaned forward and reached into his back pocket pulling out a brochure for a beach resort in Florida which he handed to her. "I already made our reservations, and I thought we could head into the city to buy you a nice bikini."
Kahlan visibly blanched as she took the promotional material. A vacation felt like the last thing she needed. She needed to hide in her bedroom and find a secret way to contact Cara or God. Maybe God could tell her what was wrong with her. And if she was in Florida, Cara wouldn't be able to find her. That is, if Cara ever wanted to see her again.
That thought hit her like a hammer blow.
Cara probably didn't want to be Kahlan's piece of ass on the side.
"I don't know, Richard—"
He steam rolled right through her objections. "Kahlan, you would look gorgeous out on the beach. You need to relax. We could go scuba-diving. I'll take you to the nicest restaurants." His eyebrows drew together as he studied her face. "Are you afraid? Afraid someone will hurt you?" He didn't wait for an answer. "Cara was going to come. Like as a bodyguard. I know you're already friends with her, so she won't be intrusive."
Kahlan actually gasped, her fist rising to rub against her breastbone again. She felt positively dizzy. Richard could be worse than a horde of Mord-Sith in his absolute naiveté.
"Have you ever considered that maybe Cara has better things to do than act as our bodyguard while we flit about in the sand and act romantic?"
It was obvious from Richard's facial expression that he had not considered that possibility at all. Not that Richard was mean or unfeeling, just that in many ways he retained the self-centeredness of a young child. Considerations about other people's feelings were several grades above his current level. Before, it had all seemed rather charming. Now, it grated against Kahlan's own finely-attuned empathy.
"Cara's still in Helena, and she hasn't got anywhere else to go. I'm sure she'd love to see you again." He held up his hands in mock surrender. "But I'll call her tomorrow and make sure its okay."
The next day she could only hear one side of the phone conversation. Richard stood in the entryway, corded phone pressed to his ear while Kahlan tried to be inconspicuous about listening from just inside the kitchen. Cara appeared to have assented to his little plan. He grinned the entire time he talked.
And then Kahlan was on another plane. This time carting significantly more luggage – all new beach clothes and necessities that Richard had insisted on buying for her. They didn't meet Cara before boarding, and Kahlan was still so scared to mention her in anything other than passing that she didn't think to ask.
They boarded the plane and where just settling into their seats when Cara stepped through the door. Kahlan lost her breath. The blonde looked wan, but still exquisite. She had leather day bag slung over her shoulder and she was wearing the tightest jeans that Kahlan had ever witnessed – highlighting the flexing muscles of her thighs as she walked. Kahlan couldn't help but stare.
Richard waved and Cara nodded at him as she passed, headed toward the back of the plane. Kahlan wanted to hit him for not paying for Cara to have a first class ticket too, but a fight in the middle of an airplane would be too embarrassing. She would wait until they got to Florida.
She listened for the first half of the flight to Richard listing every single thing he wanted to eat and drink once they finally arrived. It only took the tiniest fraction of her brain to keep track of what he was saying. Finally, she excused herself and slipped out of her seat to head for the bathroom.
The center aisle of the plane was small enough that she had to turn her hips sideways occasionally to avoid disturbing the other passengers as she passed. The single bathroom stall was occupied according to the little red plaque above the handle, so she resigned herself to the wait. The bathroom was tucked into an alcove, near where the stewardesses prepared the meals and the drinks they handed out on little metal carts. It was relatively secluded, so standing with her shoulder leaning against the wall left her mostly obscured from passengers, all who were sitting facing away from her anyway.
The sound of sure footsteps over the hum of the jet engines was unmistakable, like her body was perfectly attuned to the rhythm. They stopped just behind her. Cara was so close.
Her body reacted to Cara's presence behind her before her mind fully caught up. She leaned back until she could just feel the heat of the other woman's skin behind her, as if pulled like a magnet, and then snapped her head around – half-afraid she was about to molest a stranger. Cara was smiling at her, hands casually tucked into her pockets.
Words jammed up in Kahlan's throat. Since meeting Cara she had really struggled with an uncharacteristic inability to verbally express herself adequately. The point became entirely moot a moment later when the bathroom's current occupant, an older man, opened the door. He didn't even seem to notice the pair of women as he limped past them, leaving them very much alone in the alcove.
Not unlike the first time, Kahlan wasn't sure if she grabbed the front of Cara's shirt in her fist first, or whether Cara set her hands on her waist and pushed her back toward the bathroom first. The order of events didn't matter much as Cara kicked the bathroom door closed while fumbling with the button of Kahlan's pants. Kahlan clung to the blonde, mouth moving feverishly against hers, moaning softly in the back of her throat at the absolute sensory overload.
The palm of Cara's hand brushed against the skin of her lower belly as the other woman got her pants open enough that she could slide her hand down inside. Kahlan's hips bucked and she was forced to muffle her pleased vocalizations by biting down hard on Cara's neck.
"Oh fuck, Kahlan," Cara groaned. Her free hand came up, wrapping itself in Kahlan's silky hair and pulled her head back, disengaging her teeth. "Don't leave a mark on me. He'll get suspicious."
Of course he wouldn't, Kahlan knew that somewhere far back in that rational part of her mind that had been replaced as the controlling mechanism of her body by her over-zealous reptile brain. Richard was the least suspicious person on the planet, and he'd probably chock it up to Cara getting her card for the Mile High Club stamped by one of the stewardesses. He had mentioned Cara's reputation to her in passing before. The sharp pain radiating across her scalp felt good, though, so she didn't argue. Instead she began to rock her hips against Cara's wandering fingers which were slowly exploring the folds of her sex.
Little gasping noises escaped Kahlan – she felt so thoroughly wanton that just the idea of their entire bathroom encounter mixed with Cara's heated ministrations were sending her rocketing toward a new plane of sexual awareness. Cara's fingers slipped from her hair and down caressing the side of her neck on their way, down between her breasts, down across her stomach to the hem of her shirt. And her shirt was being pulled up, and up until Cara could get her fingers under the edge of Kahlan's bra and lifted until her breasts were free.
Kahlan braced her hands on either side of her against the walls of the narrow bathroom. Cara appeared to appreciate quite fully the free reign that gave her over Kahlan's sweating, aroused body. She slipped two fingers deep into Kahlan's slippery, slick core just at the moment that she bit down on one of Kahlan's hardened nipples. Just a little too hard. It was perfect. She was going to orgasm. Her eyes dropped closed and bright lights played behind her eyelids.
"Kahlan, open your eyes," Cara commanded softly, lifting her mouth from the breast she was tormenting. "Look at me. I want you to look at me when you come." Kahlan immediately opened her eyes, making intense eye contact. "I want you to think about this when you're on the beach with Richard in your little bikini. I want you to remember how tightly my fingers fill you and how quickly you lose control when I touch you."
The words sent Kahlan spinning over the edge to a place where there was no Richard, and Cara was the only thing that mattered. Her inner muscles clenched, gripping Cara's finger and pulled them into her further with each thrust. The sinews in her arms stood out in sharp contrast and she sobbed Cara's name over and over again as she broke.
She finally came down to find herself held tight against Cara whose fingers were still inside of her. She groaned softly, pressing her face into Cara's neck as the blonde slowly withdrew. Much to Cara's shock, if her facial expression was any indication, Kahlan caught Cara's wrist and drew her glistening fingers to her mouth, licking them clean one after the other with deliberately provocative swipes of her tongue.
"You know, Cara, you really should pack," Kahlan whispered directly into her lovers ear, patting Cara's groin to emphasize her point, before slipping around her and out the door. She didn't look back on her way up the aisle and Richard didn't ask what took so long in the bathroom. He was engrossed in the in-flight magazine.
She might be married to Richard, Kahlan mused, but at least Cara seemed to pay attention to her. Richard was not nearly so attentive to her needs, sexual or emotional.
CHAPTER EIGHTEEN: You call it chivalry, Never pull a punch for free
Damn, Cara ran her hand through her hair. - the hand that had been in Kahlan's mouth only a moment ago, and inside of other parts of Kahlan only moments before that. Cara was a big girl. A big, sexually experience girl, but there was something about that woman that she could barely handle. She was right with her first assessment though, Kahlan was too much woman for Richard to handle.
Cara took a moment to check herself in the little, smudged mirror. There weren't any marks on her neck, which was a relief. All of the marks were on the inside – scratches directly on her heart. The long flight, preceded by the long stay in the most boring city in the world, Helena, had forced Cara to take a hard look at herself. She was cuckolding her best friend with the most passionate, beautiful creature on the planet. She was both awesome, for getting into someone like Kahlan's pants, and terrible for doing that to Richard. The tension couldn't last – this was not an equilibrium point but actually the eye of a raging storm. Soon, very soon, they would be moving out of the unnatural calm and into a hurricane.
She flashed a tight smile at the people waiting outside to use the bathroom and made her way back to her cramped seat. The fat man next to her was still snoring, as he had been doing since take-off. Cara had considered taking the peanuts from her complimentary snack and forcing them into the offender's nostrils or trying to drop a few straight back into his open throat so that he would choke. She didn't, however, she hoped he was allergic to peanuts, and rubbed them all over the armrest and his unopened laptop on the tray table in front of him.
Murdering her fellow passengers wouldn't fix the problem. And it was really a very simple problem. To tell Richard that she had been knuckle deep in his wife a couple of times, or not to tell him. She had to pick once and for all. If she told him, maybe they could reconcile their friendship and it could force Kahlan to choose. The problem was, they might not reconcile, Richard might shoot her and Kahlan could very well choose her husband. If she didn't tell him, she wouldn't have to see him cry and she could continue having sex with Kahlan on the sly.
Gooey unpleasant emotions reared their head. She didn't want Kahlan on the sly. For her, at least, it wasn't just about sex. That was a huge part of it, but Cara had never allowed herself to sit for a week in a flea-infested motel in bum-fuck nowhere for any of her other sexual conquests.
She had also never sat on a plane, ridiculously aroused, next to a behemoth for anyone else either.
She spent the rest of the trip flirting shamelessly with the much older stewardess until she got her number. Cara had no intention of calling her. By the time they landed, she felt a bit better.
Cara surfed. She could practically feel Kahlan eyefucking her while she rode the waves. Cara scubadived. She noticed Kahlan licking her lips as Cara shimmied into the form-fitting wetsuit. Cara drank too much. Kahlan wasn't there to witness that.
But the number one thing Cara did for the first three days in Florida was avoid Kahlan and Richard. Whatever Cara had unleashed in the airplane bathroom had apparently reached fruition in the honeymoon suite that Kahlan shared with Richard. They made it out onto the beach for maybe three or four hours a day, and the other twenty or so were spent making what sounded like pretty athletic monkey-love.
So Cara drank in the hotel bar until that got too expensive and she moved to a tourist bar a few blocks down near the beach front. When she got kicked out of there for being fresh with one of the waitresses, she moved to local dive off the beach where the lighting was low and there weren't any waitresses to grope. By the fourth day of drinking too much as soon as the sun set, Cara got in a bar fight.
He was a large, ape of a man with thinning light colored hair covering his knobby skull. Cara had precipitated the confrontation with a few choice remarks about his mother. He did not appreciate the suggestion that his mother's virtue may have been easy enough that he was fathered by a billy goat. Roaring like an enraged zoo animal, he broke his pool cue across the table and charge at her, homemade spear raised.
She was drunk but it had never impaired her fighting ability, and now was no exception. Violence was ingrained in every sinew and fiber of Cara's being. Literally, it had been beaten into her. A roundhouse kick disarmed the man and a solid shot to his solar plexus sent him reeling to his knees, wheezing like a stuck pig.
The natives were getting restless by this time, and Cara beat a hasty retreat. She arrived at her room , adjacent to the honeymoon suite, still pumped with adrenaline and earlier than she had the nights before. It appeared from the extremely loud noises that Richard and Kahlan were mid-coitus.
Cara's beer soaked brain snapped. It was bad enough her friend wanted to rub his happiness in her face by asking her to act like the hired help and make sure nothing happened to him on his little vacation. But he was rubbing it in her face by fucking the woman she loved. Not. Acceptable.
It was this point that a meteorologist could have pinpointed on a weather map as the landfall of Hurricane Mason. She stomped out of her room and down the hall the few steps it took to place her in front of the door to her friends' room. Knocking was for people with manners. Cara would not have allowed herself, under any circumstances, to be considered such a person, especially not at that moment. One well-placed kicked just above the door latch sent the door spinning open.
Richard tangled in the sheets and fell off the bed, effectively exposing a very naked Kahlan. Cara stepped into the room, slamming the door behind her. "Richard. I fucked your wife. More than once. And she liked it." Each word came out louder than the one preceding it. "Now, I would APPRECIATE it if you got a different one, and left this one to me!"
CHAPTER NINETEEN: Don't want to hear about it, Every single one's got a story to tell, Everyone knows about it, From the Queen of England to the hounds of hell
Kahlan's hands went instinctively to cover her breasts exposed as Richard fell tangled in the blanket. She winced in sympathy at the sound of him hitting the floor. But she didn't have time to linger on how he was going to bruise – Cara launched into a drunken tirade that shook her right to the core. She was too disoriented to immediately act. One moment, Richard was above her, grunting and thrusting while she tried her best to stay in the moment and not fantasize about Cara's lips on her breast and her hands between her legs. The next moment, there Cara was, obviously drunk, and spilling all of Kahlan's deepest secrets.
Richard scrambled to his feet, wrapping the sheet around his waist to try to preserve some semblance on modesty. The room was unnaturally quiet for a moment after Cara dropped her bombshell. Kahlan took in a deep breath, trying to figure out something to say to defuse the situation but before she could, Richard exploded.
"What the fuck Cara?" He bellowed. His face turned a shocking shade of red and he was advancing rather menacingly toward the blonde. Kahlan leapt off the bed, racing to restrain him but Cara stopped her with a shake of her head. At least, that's what Kahlan thought it was. Cara could also have been about to throw up – she was pretty drunk. "Do not just fucking kick in my door and say shit like that. Now apologize to Kahlan!"
Kahlan blinked. She was even more confused. Obviously, Richard didn't believe Cara. Which meant, Kahlan could go along with that, pretend none of it ever happened and that Cara was just drunk, or she would have to be the one to disabuse him of his belief in her innocence. She wasn't innocent. Not at all.
"Richard, please can we talk about this without yelling," Kahlan fumbled around on the floor for her clothes. Being naked in the middle of a fist-fight was not exactly her idea of a good time, and it definitely looked like the situation might devolve into violence at any moment. She had one arm into her t-shirt, and was just pulling it down across her face when she heard the impact. Cara had lunged at Richard as he approached, sending them both rocketing backward into the foot of the bed.
Kahlan wriggled around, jamming her other arm into the shirt and scooping up her panties to slip them over her long legs. The surprise attack gave Cara the upper hand, which she was exploiting viciously, raining blows down on Richard pinned beneath her. "I won't apologize to Kahlan for loving her!"
Kahlan froze. Richard didn't. Whether Cara's words or her assault motivated him, Kahlan didn't know, but he summoned his strength and heaved upward with his arms, flinging Cara backwards to land spread-eagle on the floor. The blonde, drunk or not, was surprisingly dexterous; she rolled backward onto her shoulders and then reversed her momentum, leaping to her feet. In a flash, she was on Richard again, fists flying.
The pair rolled around on the floor, punching, kicking and elbowing. Teeth flashed and incomprehensible shouting filled the air. Things were quickly getting out of hand, time for Kahlan to wade into the fray. She separated them, dragging Cara off of Richard with one hand on the back of her shirt and the other wrapped around her belt. For once in her life, Kahlan was glad of her height. The blonde continued to squirm and struggle after she had been pulled away until she seemed to come to herself. When she stopped fighting her, Kahlan dropped Cara heavily on the ground.
"You," She pointed at Cara and then pointed at the door. "Out. We will talk later."
Richard lay on the ground, breathing heavily and bleeding from his potentially broken nose. As little as she wanted to have to handle playing doctor before they could sort everything out, Kahlan needed to make sure he was alright.
Cara left without an argument, but her expression was tight and her eyes hooded. Kahlan was more than a little afraid of what she might do next.
Richard whimpered as Kahlan popped his nose back into line. A fresh drizzle of blood dripped down across his upper lip. She sat back onto her knees, wincing at his obvious discomfort. He was sitting on the edge of the bed, turned to face her while she knelt on the mattress next to him. She handed him a towel to blot at the blood and then slipped off the bed. Physical distance would make the conversation she knew they had to have a little bit easier, she reasoned.
He waited silently for her to speak. The air around them was charged with tension. Richard had tucked the sheet around himself, but Kahlan suspected he may have passive aggressively decided against getting dressed. The silence was undoubtedly working on his conviction that Cara was out of her mind about her allegations.
The silence became weightier, pressing down against Kahlan's shoulders, constricting her chest around her lungs. She drew in a deep breath and turned around. It would be easier to talk with her back to him, she decided. Though, there was only so much that could be done to ease the impact on both of them.
"Richard," she murmured his name, her chin dropping against her chest sending her long brunette hair forward to curtain her face. "I'm so sorry."
"Sorry for what?" His voice was hard, and while it was phrased as a question it sounded more like a cold statement.
"That you had to find out this way." She was sorry for the pain but she couldn't be sorry for what had occurred with Cara and for the way Cara made her feel. But, this was not the gentle way she had hoped to let him know, and making the decision between the two was not something she really felt ready for yet. The moment had arrived however.
"Find out what way? Your drunken lover, my best fucking friend, interrupting our love making? That way?" She thought she heard tears in his voice, but she couldn't turn around to see. She didn't know what she would do if he was crying. She could imagine the heartbroken look on his face.
The bed squeaked as Richard's weight was lifted off of it. She could hear his heavy tread as he made his way across the plush carpet to her. When his hands landed on her shoulders, she visibly flinched. "Richard," she protested softly as his fingers dug hard into her flesh. "Please, you're hurting me."
In lieu of a verbal response, Richard pushed her. She sprawled forward, catching herself against the edge of the table in front of her and falling to her knees. "Richard—"
"Stop saying my name!" He shouted. His anger was a palpable presence in the room. Kahlan went rigid, afraid of another blow, but unsure if she even had the right to fight back. "Just tell me…just tell me why? Why Cara? When?" The words kept pouring out of him, strangled by his sobs. "Did you like it? Was she better than me?"
"I was lonely, at first. At first it was because I was lonely." Kahlan pushed herself back to her feet by her palms on the table and turned to finally face Richard. Something inside of her chest was hardening, growing colder both weighing her down and simultaneously freeing her. "But then it was because I knew her, and there was something about her that was magnetic to me." She surveyed Richard's tear stained face, contorted in agony. "I thought I knew who I was when I met you."
"But you didn't?" He was still shouting, and each word felt like a physical blow.
"No, Richard, I didn't," she didn't shout in return. A screaming match would just make the entire thing too farcical. "And I didn't know who you were when I agreed to marry you. I was in love with the idea of you, the idea of me being married to you. You were there and it felt special, and before any of that could wear off, you were gone. So I didn't know better."
"You have no idea who Cara is; what she is capable of; what she has done," Richard wrapped his arms around his bare chest and began to retreat, physically and emotionally pulling back from Kahlan. "You'll come back to me." Brick by brick, Kahlan could watch him erect walls around his ego. "Have your little dalliance if you must, but you'll be back."
"Don't you get it, Richard?" The pain was finally completely gone. Richard had made it easier for her then she had imagined, which only served to illustrate how little she actually knew him. "It isn't even just about Cara. She was a catalyst for me to realize the things I needed to realize about myself and about us. I don't need to be a little child, with a girl's fantasy romance with some suave stranger out of a story. Cara might be the worst monster in the world, but she is real. Everything about her since the moment you sent her to me has been real. "
There was nothing left to say. She grabbed her shoes as she fled the room before Richard could respond.
CHAPTER TWENTY: Don't let yourself down, don't let yourself go, your last chance has arrived
Cara wiped the back of her hand across her mouth, capturing the dribbles of water that escaped the corners of her mouth as she chugged the large glass. Proper hydration is an important component of any hangover avoidance strategy. She was just setting the glass down when a soft knock at the door drew her attention.
She peered through the peep hole and was wholly unsurprised to see Kahlan, looking stern, on the other side. For a moment she contemplated not opening the door. If she never allowed Kahlan to tell her it was over, it never had to be over. She could go on pretending that she was the sort of person that anyone would ever want to love. The knock came again, softly. There was no way to put off the inevitable, and Cara was never one to hide from pain.
She opened the door and stepped back, walking away before Kahlan pushed it open and stepped inside. An apology struggled to claw its way out of her, like Alien, but she valiantly held it in. If Cara Mason was going to be turned down, she sure as shit wasn't going to apologize for anything. She couldn't apologize. She didn't even know how a human did that sort of thing. It was so far outside the realm of her lived experience. While she waited for Kahlan's scathing dismal she tried to dredge up a single memory of herself ever having apologized and failed horribly. She couldn't really come up with a single memory of her ever having loved anyone either. Mostly, the memories she could bring up were about violence, visiting it on people or enduring it being inflicted on herself.
"I need you to hold me."
Cara was already so prepared for some angry outburst that she was halfway through spinning around with her fists already balled before the words sunk in. "You need—" And then Kahlan had launched herself into the smaller woman's arms, clutching her tightly. The feel of her arms, Kahlan's breasts pressed against her own, the smell of her hair – it was nearly too much. Feelings, terrifying feelings, threatened to swamp the boat that was Cara Mason.
"Richard is never going to forgive me," Kahlan spoke directly into Cara's neck where she had pressed her face. The blonde was a little surprised that there did not appear to be any tears, but no more surprised than she was about the fact that apparently Kahlan had chosen her. She couldn't give less of a fuck if Richard ever forgave Kahlan – Kahlan was her's now. She nearly crowed with delight, but instead she wrapped her arms around the other woman, doing her best to radiate warmth and comfort – a distinctly foreign experience.
"I'm sure he will." She knew it was a lie. Part of her was sad that the friendship she had with Richard, which had been a rock through the trauma of her flight from her sisterhood had provided was most certainly and permanently dead. Maybe the sudden rush to her head caused brain cell death or dysfunction because like magic, an apology appeared. "I'm sorry I put you in that position. I couldn't—I can't— Just the idea of someone else touching you. It kills me. I love you, and I know I don't have a right to but I do."
Warm lips moved against Cara's neck, words transmuted into kissing. Fire raced through her veins but she tamped it down. Now was not the time to throw Kahlan on the bed and savagely ravage her just to mark her territory and obliterate the memory of Richard's touch forever.
"Come on. You're tired." Carefully she steered Kahlan toward the bed. They fell asleep, Kahlan's head tucked under Cara's chin, dark and light hair intertwined.
CHAPTER TWENTY-ONE: Home, Let me come Home, Home is wherever I'm with you
Aydindril was untouched in Kahlan's mind by Richard. He had been there so briefly, the impressions that he left didn't stick in her memory, which was a relief. They were like a half-remembered dream – far away like her days in high school or her early childhood. She could feel like she was home without being haunted by the ghost of him. There were other ghosts, though. It was a town that had been brutally treated, and it needed a strong leader to help. She almost couldn't believe that she had allowed Richard to distract her from that – her job as Mayor.
Several months had passed, and Kahlan could sit in her office and work through her paperwork without a steady stream of distraught townspeople interrupting her constantly. Which was not to say her days weren't without interruption, just of a significantly more pleasant variety. Her mind had begun to wander in the direction of such an interruption. Just the sensory memory of Cara's possessive hands made her wiggle in her chair. Cara liked to undress her, with the lights on, and watch her squirm with modesty while a blush worked its way up her neck. Cara also liked to work on Kahlan's truck in a nearly transparent white tank top with no bra underneath. She had a disconcerting habit of looking incredibly attractive while a sheen of sweat highlight the smooth contours of her muscled arms while she did yard work too. In fact, Kahlan realized with a sigh, even when Cara wasn't trying she was incredibly sensual, and sexually magnetic.
She shook her head, trying to bring herself back into the moment and focus on her paperwork. The clock on the wall ticked closer and closer toward five. Swirls of light took over her computer screen as the screen saver kicked in, hiding the spreadsheet that she had been pretending to work on.
There wasn't even a knock to warn her before the door was flung open and Cara sauntered inside. Every time she appeared it was breathtaking. Her body reacted immediately, a faint blush rising to her cheeks. Not for the first time, Kahlan was glad that Cara couldn't read her mind and guess the nearly pornographic things she had been thinking just moments before. "Oh, I didn't think your therapist appointment would be over so soon." Even to her own ears she sounded breathless and almost coy.
"I had better things to do then talk to a fat old man about why I have a perfectly normal aversion to being shot at and having any number of people try to murder me." Cara strutted across the short space between the door and Kahlan's desk.. Kahlan was absolutely certain she must practice that move in a mirror, there was no way that sort of thing came naturally – it oozed sex. She bit her lip as Cara settled herself on the corner of her desk. The view that provided of her ass and the toned expanse of her thigh was nearly too much. "I don't care if they have a special name for it, where I come from, it's called 'self preservation'."
"I think it's actually called post-traumatic stress, with an emphasis on the disorder." Horny or not, Kahlan wasn't going to let Cara get away with pretending she didn't have feelings.
"He keeps trying to prescribe pills. I think he must be getting a kickback from some sort of pharmaceutical company."
"I think he was trying to help you sleep through the night." Kahlan frowned slightly.
"I know a better way to sleep through the night. You should help me practice." Cara was fast. Very fast, which was really no surprise to Kahlan since she had at least an inkling that the other woman was some kind of super-soldier, and she had the hard muscles to prove it. Before she could blink or protest about the general inappropriateness of being straddled by your ridiculously hot girlfriend in your office chair in your office where you worked as mayor, Cara was in her lap and tugging at the buttons of her shirt.
"Cara, you're going to be the death of me."
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